Hotels vs. Airbnb in a Covid-19 World: Which is Cheaper?

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It’s undeniable that the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked unprecedented havoc on the travel industry. From millions of cancelled reservations and shattered plans to ongoing travel restrictions and shut down services, 2020 has turned being a homebody from a personality trait to a required necessity.

As we go into the final quarter of the year, domestic travel in the United States and Canada has started to pick up, bringing people out of their homes and back on the road. At the same time, cross-border travel within Europe is becoming limited again, as countries bring back restrictions due to an increased number of Covid-19 cases. With strict face mask policies in place and enhanced cleaning protocols, travel operators are doing everything in their power to make their customers feel comfortable and make sure they feel safe as they embark on a journey in a Covid-19 world. If you do decide to travel, make sure you check out our Covid-19 Travel Guide for the latest info on requirements and bus and train carrier policies.

As a result, it costs less to travel now than ever before. One of the few silver linings of the pandemic is that prices have gone down, including last-minute bookings, meaning that you now have a much better chance of paying a regular fare even when you book just a day or two prior to when you need to hit the road. For example, in a pre-Covid world, a last-minute train ticket from Boston to New York used to cost no less than $120. Now, you can find tickets for $69 less than 24 hours ahead of departure. That’s over 40% cheaper!

With that knowledge in mind, we were curious to find out whether the same can be said about the various accommodation options out there. After all, on average, accommodation costs take up about 42% of a traveler’s budget. That’s why, we decided to conduct a study and find out how hotel and Airbnb rates have changed over the past few years in key destinations across North America and Europe. Ultimately, we wanted to answer the question that’s on every current traveler’s mind: is a hotel or an Airbnb cheaper during Covid?

Using pricing data we gathered from Trivago’s Hotel Price Index and Inside Airbnb, we took a close look at accommodation prices in 20 popular cities across the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Select a region:

North America

  • Chart represents the average price for a two-person hotel room vs. the average rate for an entire home or private room on Airbnb in summer 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in USD.

When it comes to North American cities, the verdict is pretty clear – right now, it’s much cheaper to stay at a hotel than Airbnb. The only exception to the rule, as always, is New York City. Even though NYC hotels are notoriously struggling right now, they continue to command room rates that are over 20% more expensive than the average rate of a home or private room on Airbnb.

Evidently, Miami and Las Vegas are among the cities with the highest difference in rates. As a resort destination, Miami continues to be a particularly popular place among vacationers even with the ongoing risks associated with the coronavirus because of its prominent outdoor venues and activities. In the case of Las Vegas, as shown further down in our study, Airbnbs have always been more expensive than hotels, partially due to the limited amount of Airbnb accommodations in the Vegas area compared to hotel room inventory.

One possible explanation for the discrepancy in rates between hotel rooms and Airbnb accommodations is that staying at a private apartment generally provides more privacy and allows you to maintain a further distance from strangers. Additionally, in a Covid-19 world, various popular amenities offered by hotels such as swimming pools, gyms or spas may be less attractive to visitors (or might not be available at all), pushing hotel rates further down.

Now let’s take a look at how hotel and Airbnb rates in each of these cities have changed over the past three years:

Chicago, IL

Chicago
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in USD.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in Chicago.

Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on the hotel industry in the Windy City. While hotels continued to be the more premium priced accommodation choice for Chicago visitors through 2018 and 2019, things have taken a drastic change in 2020 with rates dropping by an average 34%.

While the average Airbnb rate in Chicago has taken a dip as well, it’s not as prominent as the price drop seen in hotels. Because of that, it is now more expensive to stay at an Airbnb than a hotel in Chicago. It remains to be seen how (and whether) rates will continue to shift as travel continues to grow back and, particularly, business travelers start hitting the road again.

Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in USD.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in Las Vegas.

As mentioned above, Airbnb rates in Las Vegas have historically been higher than the average price of hotel rooms. That trend has continued during the Covid-19 pandemic but, as you can see, the price difference has gotten much bigger compared to previous years.

Due to the coronavirus, many Vegas hotels were forced to shut down temporarily and didn’t begin reopening until mid-June, with some restarting their operations as late as mid-August. That could explain the 24% rate drop, as hotel operators continue to struggle to attract visitors while most of Sin City’s key attractions are yet to resume.

Miami, FL

Miami
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of June in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in USD.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in Miami.

While there was no Airbnb data available for 2018, it’s pretty clear that staying at a private home instead of a hotel is generally the more expensive route to go when visiting Miami. That has not changed much year over year. In fact, Miami is the only city on our North American roster that has not seen any drastic changes in accommodation prices as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While it is true that prices have gone down by 7-8% compared to 2019, that’s the case for both hotels and Airbnbs. As a result, hotels in Miami continue to be much cheaper than Airbnb homes by almost 40%.

New York, NY

New York
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in USD.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in New York.

Even though New York hotels have been hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, their rates have managed to maintain a relatively high rate. At $194 per night for a regular two-person room, NYC hotels continue to be more expensive than Airbnbs.

Airbnb rates, on the other hand, have dropped by more than 25%. While Airbnbs have historically been more affordable than hotels in New York, they are even cheaper now during Covid. In fact, as evident in the chart above, in 2019 Airbnb prices were almost on the same level as hotels. However, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have dragged them down closer to where they were in 2018.

San Francisco, CA

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in USD.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in San Francisco.

Like Chicago, San Francisco hotels have experienced a massive drop of over 40% in rates compared to 2018 and 2019. As San Fran is the urban epicenter of the Silicon Valley, one of the main reasons for that could be the drastic decrease in business travel over the past few months due to ongoing work-from-home policies that many companies in the region have adopted.

Airbnbs in the Bay Area, on the other hand, have maintained their standing at $200+ per night, turning them from a cheaper accommodation option to a much pricier alternative. So, if you’re planning a trip to San Francisco – to visit a loved one or hit one of the many scenic bike trails – hotels will give you a much better (about 36%) bang for your buck.

Toronto, ON

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in USD.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in Toronto.

Hotel prices in Toronto seem to be on the same downward trajectory as most of the other North American cities we’ve examined. In 2018 and 2019, hotels maintained a rate of well over $170 per night, making them far more expensive than Airbnb accommodations. In 2020, hotel prices have dropped almost 30% year over year but hotels still remain the pricier option. Even Airbnb rates have barely shifted, it is still cheaper to stay at an Airbnb home than a hotel.

Vancouver, BC

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in USD.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in Vancouver.

Vancouver’s accommodation scene was similar to Toronto’s in 2018 and 2019. In either city, hotels used to be a lot more expensive than Airbnb but the two have switched places in 2020 and Airbnb homes are currently slightly more expensive than hotels.

In 2018 and 2019, Vancouver’s hotels commanded higher prices than even San Francisco and New York. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, rates have dropped more than 50% and it’s now much cheaper to stay at a hotel when visiting Vancouver than renting an Airbnb home or private room. If you’re planning a trip and you need additional ideas on how to stay on budget, check out our guide to free things you can do around Vancouver.

Europe

  • Chart represents the average price for a two-person hotel room vs. the average rate for an entire home or private room on Airbnb in summer 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Unlike North America where affordability is largely on hotels’ side right now, Europe paints a much more diverse picture. Of the 13 European cities that we examined, only four yield average hotel fares that are cheaper than staying at an Airbnb. Of those four, two are significantly pricier when it comes to Airbnb accommodations compared to staying at a hotel.

If you are visiting Amsterdam and prefer to stay at an Airbnb home or private room, be ready to spend over 70% more than what it would cost you to sleep at a hotel. Similarly, travelers spending the night at Spain’s capital, Madrid, will save about 52% if they opt to stay at a hotel as opposed to an Airbnb. While the situation in Amsterdam is due to a significant drop in hotel rates year over year, Madrid’s hotels have always been a lot cheaper than Airbnb accommodations, as evidenced by the pricing data found further down in our study.

In cities like Athens, Barcelona, London, Paris and Vienna, travelers can save a good amount of cash if they stay at an Airbnb home. And in other cities, like Berlin, Dublin or Istanbul, the price difference is not too significant.

As expected, just like concert tickets, accommodation rates across Europe vary greatly from city to city. For more information on how much other travel-related services cost around the Old Continent, check out our ranking of all European capitals from cheapest to most expensive.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in Amsterdam.

As noted above, Amsterdam has the biggest discrepancy in pricing between hotels and Airbnbs. Hotel rates stayed relatively flat year over year in 2018 and 2019, and then experienced a huge drop in 2020. At the same time, Airbnb rates rose up in 2019 and have stayed relatively the same through the Covid-19 pandemic so far.

As a result, even though it was already on the more affordable side, staying at a hotel is now over 70% cheaper than spending the night at an Airbnb home. Then again, an average rate of €95 per night, one night at an Amsterdam hotel is more expensive than a tour of eight cities across the Netherlands.

Athens, Greece

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of July in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in Athens.

The Greek capital is one of those European cities where it has always been cheaper to stay at an Airbnb. The only difference since the Covid-19 pandemic started is that it is now a little less cheaper to stay at an Airbnb compared to hotels.

Accommodation costs have been pretty flat across platforms year over year. In 2020, average hotel rates have dropped by about 20% but they still remain higher than Airbnb rates that have not changed much.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in Barcelona.

Similarly to Athens, Airbnb has been historically cheaper than hotel rooms in Barcelona. In a Covid-19 world, either type of accommodation has become cheaper compared to previous years but the overall difference in prices has remained pretty much the same.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in Berlin.

In the German capital, it appears that Airbnb has been traditionally much cheaper than staying at a hotel. Over the past two years, the difference between the average price for the two has steadily decreased. However, while hotels have become cheaper by about 25% year-over-year and Airbnb accommodations have become more expensive by over 30% compared to 2018, it continues to be more affordable to stay at an Airbnb home in Berlin.

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of June in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in Brussels.

In Brussels, the average Airbnb price has continued to rise in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, reaching its highest average level of the past three years. However, it’s still cheaper to stay at someone’s private home than to spend a night at a hotel.

What’s interesting is that, while the average hotel fare has dropped a little bit compared to 2019, it has only gone down to the same level where it was in 2018. In other words, the price of accommodation in Brussels doesn’t seem to have been affected drastically by the pandemic.

Dublin, Ireland

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb and hotels cost pretty much the same in Dublin.

Of all the European cities that we analyzed, Dublin is the only one where the average price for a hotel room and an Airbnb home is basically the same. Historically, hotels have been the more costly of the two but the pandemic seems to have affected both the hotel and homeshare industries negatively in the Irish capital. Hotels have experienced a drop in prices of about 20%, while Airbnb rates have dipped by 10%.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of June in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in Istanbul.

Similarly to Berlin, Airbnb prices in Istanbul were not affected by the pandemic, as they have risen more than 60% compared to 2018. Hotels, on the other hand, were hit pretty hard and the average price for a night at a hotel dipped by about 20% year over year. In spite of that, it remains cheaper to stay at someone’s private home than to stay at a hotel, although the price difference is pretty small and not as significant as it was the previous two years.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in Lisbon.

After Airbnb homes were the more affordable choice for short-term accommodation in Lisbon through 2018 and 2019, the pandemic seems to have forced hotel prices in the region down by about 30%. As a result, hotels are currently much cheaper compared to Aribnb which has lost only a fraction of its average fare year-over-year.

London, United Kingdom

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in London.

London has always been a global hotspot commanding premium prices from residents and visitors alike. Even though prices for both hotels and Airbnb homes have dipped a little bit in 2020 compared to 2019, they are still higher than they were in 2018 and the ratio between the two has remained largely unchanged with Airbnb continuing to be the more affordable option.

Madrid, Spain

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in Madrid.

Unlike most other European cities that we analyzed, Madrid has been able to keep its average hotel prices pretty stable. In fact, they have even experienced a slight increase year over year. On the other hand, after seeing a surge of over 80% year-over-year in 2019, Airbnb rates in Madrid have taken a significant dip but still remain much higher than what you would spend, on average, for a night at a hotel.

Paris, France

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb is cheaper than hotels in Paris.

Pandemic or not, short-term accommodation prices in the French capital have risen across the board compared to previous years. While Airbnb was generally more expensive than hotels in both 2018 and 2019, an increase of almost 50% in the average hotel rate year-over-year has turned the tables and made hotels the pricier option for spending the night in Paris. Airbnb rates have remained pretty flat compared to 2019.

Rome, Italy

Rome
  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Hotels are cheaper than Airbnb in Rome.

Even though both hotel and Airbnb rates have experienced a slight dip year-over-year, neither has changed too significantly. Hotels in Rome continue to be more affordable than Airbnb homes but only by a very small percentage.

Vienna, Austria

  • Data is based on the average rates for the month of August in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Amounts shown are in EUR.

Airbnb is cheaper than Airbnb in Vienna.

After experiencing a surge in rates for both hotels and Airbnb in 2019, the pandemic has driven prices for either type of accommodation back down to levels similar to where they were in 2018. Hotel stays in Vienna continue to be more expensive than Airbnb homes by about 17%.

As you can see, the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on short-term accommodation differs greatly from city to city across North America and Europe. One thing is for sure, though – it will take a long time for the travel industry, in general, to recover and go back to where it was in a pre-Covid world.

The data listed above is based on actual rates available throughout summer 2020 compared to the same period in the previous two years. With prices and overall demand being so volatile, it remains to be seen whether there are going to be any further major changes in the months to come.

If you are itching to travel right now, you can find all the places you can go and all the active restrictions and requirements in our Covid-19 Travel Guide. And if you prefer to stay put for the time being, you can check out our Virtual Travel section or daydream of a future trip with our itineraries across France or around the United States.

How we did it

To come up with the results above, we did the following:

  • We used the Trivago Hotel Price Index to look up the average overnight accommodation prices for a standard double room in each of the analyzed cities.
  • We used data available from Inside Airbnb to collect pricing information for Airbnb listings in each of the featured cities. We limited our analysis only to entire homes and private rooms, excluding shared rooms and hotels that are also available to book on Airbnb. We also limited the analysis to properties that did not impose a minimum duration of stay that is longer than one or two nights at a time.
  • Based on the information available for each city, the final data is based on actual hotel and Airbnb rates for the months of June, July or August compared year-over-year through 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • All European pricing data from Inside Airbnb was available in local currency and it was converted into EUR using Google’s currency converter on October 13, 2020.
  • All Canadian pricing data from Inside Airbnb was available in local currency and it was converted into USD using Google’s currency converter on October 20, 2020.

You are welcome to use the information on this page, crediting Wanderu. If you do so, please link back to this page, so that data aficionados around the globe can find out how we did this study.

Travel Safely

At Wanderu, we want to make sure you are equipped with all the information you need to plan a safe trip. Please visit our COVID-19 Travel Guide for the latest tips & advisories.

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About the author
Staffo Dobrev

Staffo Dobrev

Having lived in some of the greatest cities in the world, Staffo has always had a soft spot for travel and adventures. Instead of hitting the usual tourist attractions, though, Staffo prefers to make friends with local people and check out fun places and activities that are not in the travel books.

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